Photo Credit: Tim Tronckoe

Firewind’s tenth full-length record, Stand United, recently dropped to an amazing reception. Founded in 1998, the hard rock / power metal institution Firewind is revered as the brainchild of the legendary Gus G. This Greek-born artist has become an internationally recognized talent due to his status as one of the top guitarists in the world. Gus G. has charmed audiences with the likes of his eponymous project, Ozzy Osbourne, Dream Evil, Mystic Prophecy, Arch Enemy, and Nightrage.
However, Firewind will always be known as the band that launched Gus G.’s career. On Stand United, Gus G. is joined by Herbie Langhans on vocals, Petros Christo on bass, Jo Nunez on drums. All musicians involved deliver exceptional performances. Stand United is a victory in every respect. The album is even completed by a stunning cover by the acclaimed visual artist Costin Chioreanu.
We were honored to have had the privilege of sitting down with Gus G. shortly after Stand United’s release. He spoke to us from his tour bus. Despite his never-ending list of accomplishments, Gus G. couldn’t have been more humble. We are grateful for his time and very pleased to present the result of our discussion. In addition to Firewind, we also touched upon the topics of cats and guest appearances.

Congratulations on the March 1st release of Stand United! Could you please tell me about the positive reactions that you’ve received thus far?

I’ve gotten really good feedback so far from the press. We’ve received some of the best reviews of our career so far. I’ve never seen so many nine-out-of-tens, so to speak. But also, to me, it’s very important to hear the feedback from our fanbase because that’s ultimately what counts. You want this to appeal to your fanbase and, of course, to a bigger mass. People seem to be really into the new album. We went straight on tour, and we’re already playing a lot of the new songs. People are already reacting. A lot of them know the lyrics and stuff, so it’s a good sign.

Obviously, based on what you just said, your tour with Masterplan is going great, right?

Yes, it’s really good. Every show has been packed so far. We just finished the Spanish leg, and now we’re driving back to Germany.

Could you please take me through the creative process a bit for Stand United. I understand that the album was recorded over different periods of time in a very unorthodox way.

Yes, it was a little bit. I don’t know if I should say, “working backwards or something,” but it was kind of strange for us. We’re used to the old-school way — just going into it, recording, and mixing everything in a period of maybe one or two months maximum. Now, the luxury of having your own home studio can throw you off a little bit in a sense. We went out and did touring, came back, continued, and then did festivals and shows and whatnot. So, that throws you a little bit out of the daily rhythm or routine of recording, but it also gave us the opportunity to have a second listen to the songs, if you’d like. It gave us more perspective and allowed us to rethink some things. When you have more time, your mind becomes more clear. We worked on the lyrics a little bit more. We were able to put much more thought into the arrangement and things like that. In the end, it was a bit more nerve-racking, but doing it in parts was worth it. I’m not sure if I’d do it like that again, but you never know. Never say never, but this time it seemed to work.

Obviously, everyone does an amazing job on the album, so is there anything you’d like to say about your bandmates?

Yeah, on this album, I worked really closely with Herbie, our singer. The last album we did was his first one with the band. This time, he was more integrated into the band. I sent him all my ideas, all early demos, and we were able to work on them from scratch together. And, of course, the third collaborator is Dennis Ward, who has been co-producing our albums since 2017, the Immortals album. So, Dennis plays a big role. He engineers the albums, he mixes them, he masters them. Sometimes, he contributes lyrical ideas. He’s an American who lives in Germany, so we always run our lyrics by him to make sure that the English is proper. So, it was kind of like a synergy of us three — me, Herbie, and Dennis. Everybody’s contributions are really valuable.

Dennis obviously did a fantastic job with the production. So, did everything go smoothly with the recording process, or was it hard because, again, the album was created over different periods of time?

We tracked the drums in one session, so we basically flew Joe, our drummer, to Germany to the studio that Dennis works out of. I think it took us like three or four days. Then he left. From there on, we kind of did our parts in our own studios. I have my studio, and Herbie can record his vocals in his studio. We basically just sent the files to Dennis. He just started mixing and doing his thing. That’s the way we did it. It was very remote. We were just fine. We’ve been doing it like that forever. We are a band that started out like that, just exchanging files. Even when internet wasn’t as fast. But now, I think pretty much everybody around the world works like that. It’s so easy to file-share. And if you have your own studio — and you don’t even need to have a fancy studio, just like a simple home studio — it gets things going. I’m going to give you an example. Billie Eilish had the biggest album in the world, and she did it out of her bedroom a few years ago. Technology has come a long way.

Do you ever have Zoom or Skype meetings to share your ideas live?

Yeah. We had a live thing like when they were doing drums in Germany, I was listening to that session in real time. If I had anything to say, I would just point out maybe we should do this or that. Things like that. And from there on, when I track guitars, I pretty much know what I want out of it and stuff. Then I’ll just send the files to Dennis, and he’ll do his thing. Yeah, sometimes we’ll send some video messages if we want to get some details across, but usually it runs pretty smoothly.

On Stand United, you covered The Romantics’ “Talking in Your Sleep,” which was a very cool and unexpected choice. So, do you have any ideas of what songs you might like to cover in the future?

Now that’s a little bit of a strange topic, actually. I’m glad you brought it up. We were having a tough time deciding which cover we wanted to do. We knew we wanted to do a cover of like an ’80s song. But the thing is that all the ’80s pop songs have already been done by metal bands. Pretty much all the big hits have been taken by at least one metal band. So, whenever an idea came up it was like, “Oh, this song?” “So-and-so has done it.” “Or that one?” It was just this discussion that was going nowhere. I come from Greece and live there; I remember driving around town because that song, “Talking in Your Sleep,” is played on Greek rock radio a lot. I always heard it, and one day, I went, “Hey, that’s a killer song!” I’ve loved it forever. I googled it right away to see if any other metal band had done a cover, and luckily nobody did. So, I texted the guys, and I said, “How about this one?” Everyone was into it. The thing is that we wanted to record a couple more covers, but we just couldn’t find anything. We wanted to, I don’t want to say, “be original…” But we don’t want to do another version of “Eye if the Tiger” from Rocky III or something that so many other bands have done. We want to try to be creative with it. It’s still up in the air what else we want to do. We’ll think of something. We’ll see. But for now, I think we were able to bring “Talking in Your Sleep” into our own world pretty seamlessly.

Besides touring, what are your plans for the future with Firewind?

I mean, there’s a lot of touring ahead of us this year. We’re coming to America, obviously, next month. We start right around your neighborhood, actually, in Jersey, April 11th. And then, we go to Japan. I think we’re going to take the summer off. We’re going to do a few festivals in Europe, but then we’re going to go back on tour in the fall. Yeah, right now, there’s a lot of ideas being thrown around about more touring until the end of the year and then into 2025. I guess it’s too early to say about the next album or anything. It’s not even something we’re thinking about right now. We want to get the most out of this one. We’ll see how it goes.

What has it been like to work with AFM Records?

It’s been good so far. I signed with them back in 2016. Literally, the day after I signed, they sold the company to Believe Digital, a big French company. They’re buying everybody now. I’ve been able to have a steady team that I work with within the label. Those guys believe in us, and they’re trying to help us. I think they’ve been doing a good job, especially with the new album. We released the previous album right when the pandemic hit, so there wasn’t much that could be done. I’m not saying that album got lost a little bit, but we couldn’t get on tour. We could not properly promote it. We did go on tour two years later for it. But now, it seems that the timing is right for a lot of things. We got the album release and the tour simultaneously, which is really a blessing because it’s really hard to plan these things and for everything to fall into place.

On AFM’s website, the exclusive black and gold splatter vinyl comes with a cat patch, which immortalizes your orange cat Leon. So, how many cats do you have right now? Don’t the other ones feel left out because they don’t have patches as well?

I have four cats. You’re right. It’s not fair to the other ones, but, you know, the Leon cat patch is only the beginning. I’m sure the other ones are going to get their own patch or merch at some point because now, as soon as I saw what great feedback this thing had, my mind just went like, “Okay!” For me, this is like the easiest thing to exploit my cat’s images. Yeah, and at the same time, I’m glad that people are supporting this because it gives me more income to provide for the cat food, you know. I have enough money to buy cat food now, so it’s good.

You obviously played with Ozzy Osbourne. During your time with Ozzy, you also played with Blasko, who is an amazing award-winning cat advocate. So, did you two bond over cats?

Absolutely, yeah. You know, me and Blasko, when we toured, this was like ten years ago, he was searching for the cat cafes, wherever we were. I remember we were like in Tokyo and that was like one of the first cat cafes, and he was like, “Dude, have you heard of this thing called cat cafe?!” I’m like, “No, what is it?” “You just go there, you have coffee, and there are just cats. You can adopt them, and you can just let them and stuff.” And I’m like, “Wow!” So, we would go out on these kind of coffee trips to try to find cat cafes, and, of course, that was definitely a bonding thing between me and Blasko.

Is there anything you would like to say about contributing to Bruce Dickinson’s newest album, The Mandrake Project?

Yeah. Obviously, for me, it was a huge honor to be part of it. I’ve known Roy, his guitar player and his producer, for a long time. I’ve known him for twenty years. And we actually toured together because he also played in Halford’s band, his solo band. And Halford was a special guest of Ozzy when I was in the band. I knew that he was working on the new Bruce album for a long time. And he told me, “Dude, I would love to do something together, kind of like trade leads.” It’s something we talked about for a long time. But, you know, with these things, you cannot take them for granted, of course. If they happen, they happen. And one day out of the blue, he just messaged me. I think it was last year right around this time. He said, “Alright, I think I got the song, man. It’s a cool track. It’s something special.” So, he sent me the track. I was on tour as a matter of fact, and I remember I had a day off. I booked a hotel, and I set up a small home studio, and I sent him the files. Yeah, I’m so proud of it. I’m proud to be on this album. Bruce is an absolute legend, and so is Roy, and it’s just great. I hadn’t heard the mix until the album came out. I was very careful. I didn’t want to overstep any boundaries. I didn’t ask to hear it. I didn’t ask to hear any mixes from Roy because I know how these things go. I didn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable. I’m like, “Okay, I’ll just wait until March 1st when it comes out, and I’ll listen on Spotify.” I love the mix. I love what he did. And, yeah, it’s a killer record. It’s a great track. I’m honored to be part of it.

Obviously, you’ve made a ton of really great guest appearances, and one that was a bit surprising is Old Man’s Child’s In Defiance of Existence. That’s a very special album, and I’m very much into black metal, so I was wondering: Do you have any memories from that collaboration that you’d like to share?

Oh, yeah. That was a long-long time ago. That was more than twenty years ago, and the story goes that back then I was living in Gothenburg, I was in a band with Fredrik Nordström, who owns Studio Fredman, and a lot of those extreme metal bands have done records there. You know, like At the Gates and Dimmu Borgir and all those guys, they would go to the studio all the time. I was in a band with Fredrik. The band was called Dream Evil. I was hanging around Gothenburg for a while, for a couple of years, when we were setting up the band. And I think, not the Dimmu guys but the guitar player, Galder, he came back to do his album with Old Man’s Child. He was spending a month there. We got to hang out. We would hang out at night, and we would go out to bars, drinking and doing all kinds of crazy shit. He’s a lovely guy. He said to me one day, “Dude, you should throw down some leads on my album!” And I was like, “Yeah, hell yeah!” So, it was just a regular day. I went to the studio and plugged in, and we got a sound going. I tracked leads on two songs. That’s a really good album, actually.

It is. Thank you so much for a great interview! Good luck in Germany! I know that the rest of your tour will be a huge success!


(Order Firewind’s Stand United from AFM Records HERE.)